BRUCKHEIMER PULLS OFF HAT TRICK -- AND MORE
Jerry Bruckheimer pulled off a hat trick in the Nielsens last week, producing the top three entertainment shows: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Without a Trace, and CSI: Miami. He also oversaw the ninth show on the list, Cold Case. Each aired on CBS and helped to produce an easy win for the network in overall households as it averaged an 8.0 rating and a 13 share. NBC was well behind in second place with a 6.4/11. ABC placed third with a 5.9/10, while Fox trailed with a 4.7/8. Meanwhile, it was reported that ratings for ABC's Monday Night Football rose slightly for the first time in eight years this season, with the 17 telecasts averaging an 11.5/19, up from an 11.4/19 a year ago.
The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 15.4/25; 2. NFL Monday Night Football: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Miami Dolphins, ABC, 12.6/21; 3. CSI: Miami, CBS, 12.5/20; 4. Without a Trace, CBS, 12.4/21; 5. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 11.5/17; 6. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 9.9/15; 7. Law and Order, NBC, 9.8/16; 7. Primetime Special Edition: Oprah Winfrey in Africa, ABC, 9.8/17; 9. NFL Monday Showcase, ABC, 9.2/14; 10. Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People, ABC 9.0/14; 10. Friends, NBC, 9.0/15.
JACKSON SPECIAL MAY AIR IN JANUARY
CBS, which yanked a variety special featuring Michael Jackson following the entertainer's arrest on child molestation charges last month, may have decided to air the special during the first week of January, according to FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman, who cited an unnamed source. Jackson may also appear on CBS's 60 Minutes to answer questions from Ed Bradley in an interview set to be taped on Saturday, Friedman also reported. Spokespersons for the network and for 60 Minutes refused to confirm or deny the report.
ABC SPORTS' SINGER-REPORTER TIMBERLAKE SIDELINED
An ABC Sports spokesman says that it is "still figuring out" how to use singer Justin Timberlake as a "special correspondent" for its NBA telecasts this season. ABC Sports producer Michael Pearl told today's (Wednesday) New York Post: ""The key is that he doesn't want -- and was very firm on this -- he doesn't want to pretend to be a sports expert. ... Because he's not. He's just a very big sports fan." Although ABC's first NBA telecast is set for Thursday (Christmas Day), Timberlake is not scheduled to appear on it. The Post said that his first piece won't air for at least several weeks.
GARNER TO REMAIN AS CO-STAR OF 8 SIMPLE RULES
James Garner, who has been playing the maverick grandpa on 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter since the death of John Ritter, has signed a deal with Touchstone TV, the show's producer, to remain on the series as a regular, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Garner plays the grandfather of three teenage children who has moved into their home following their father's death.
RICHARDS DENIES HE'S BOYCOTTING SEINFELD DVD
Michael Richards has said that he would be willing to do an interview for the DVD release of the first season of Seinfeld if he is paid for it. "I'm not boycotting," Richards told today's (Wednesday) New York Times, a day after the newspaper reported that he, along with co-stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander had decided not to grant interviews for the DVD unless they received a percentage of the home video's sales. Richards said that he "innocently" asked the show's producers whether there would be compensation for doing the DVD interview. "I don't believe there is. There isn't anything," he said.
MOVIE REVIEWS: COLD MOUNTAIN
[NOTE: Most newspapers are publishing reviews of films that are scheduled to open on Christmas day today (Wednesday). A few key newspapers, including the New York Times, are not, however. Since we will not be publishing Studio Briefing on Thursday and will only be publishing an update if necessary on Friday, we are summarizing here the reviews that are currently available.] If critics have a complaint against Anthony Minghella'sCold Mountain -- and several have none at all -- it's that it may be too beautiful for it's own good. Marc Caro in the Chicago Tribune, for example, says that the film looks "gift wrapped." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News elaborates this way: "Minghella has certainly mounted a gorgeous movie and the battle scenes are brutally spectacular. But overall, Cold Mountain is like a fine piece of hand-crafted leather, where the stitching shows its quality. That looks good on a handbag, not so good on the big screen." Nevertheless, the film is attracting much praise. John Anderson writes in Newsday: "That the film Cold Mountain is so much better than the best-selling Charles Frazier novel makes it quite the rare thing -- only The Godfather comes immediately to mind as an example of a major movie that so surpasses its source material." Lou Lumenick in theNew York Post calls it "exquisitely crafted" and compares it favorably with another civil war movie, Gone With the Wind. Likewise Mike Clark inUSA Today comments that it is "the equal of any Civil War movie ever made." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times writes that "it evokes a backwater of the Civil War with rare beauty" and awards it three stars but questions whether the Frazier novel really lends itself to a movie adaptation.
MOVIE REVIEWS: CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN
As far as the critics are concerned, the laughs don't come much cheaper than those offered up in the new Steve Martin-Bonnie Hunt move Cheaper By the Dozen. Reviewing the movie in the Los Angeles Times, Kevin Thomas calls it "as synthetic as a plastic Christmas tree." Geoff Pevere in theToronto Star warns that it "is a horror movie trying to pass as family-values, feel-good holiday fare." Robert K. Elder's review in the Chicago Tribune appears under the headline: "Charming Cheaper modernized but lacks heart."
MOVIE REVIEWS: PETER PAN
Several critics have pounced on what they perceive as a sexual subtext in the latest version of Peter Pan and warn parents that this movie is not what they might expect. Jan Stuart describes a kissing scene between Wendy and Peter as "a betrayal of [author J.M. Barrie's] spirit that should sendPeter Pan fans flying off to Never-again-land." Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail also writes of the "tendency to make the covert erotic themes in Barrie too clear." On the other hand Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times observes that the movie is not "overtly sexual," adding: "It's just that the sensuality is there, and the other versions have pretended that it was not."
MOVIE REVIEWS: PAYCHECK
Ben Affleck is receiving better reviews for Paycheck than he did for Gigli, but that's not saying much. All in all, his latest effort is also regarded by most critics as dreadful. "Ben Affleck must have signed on to this bloated action film to collect a fat check. That would make more sense than if he claimed to be mesmerized by this ridiculous story," writers Claudia Puig in USA Today. But Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News observes: "You can't really blame [Affleck] for picking up his own fortunes for his film work. He's a good-looking guy with zero screen presence, and if the studios want to keep throwing money at him to play heroic figures, that's their problem." But if Affleck received a handsome paycheck to make the movie, the producers stinted elsewhere, Manohla Dargis suggests in the Los Angeles Times. "Perhaps because there wasn't enough money (the look is knockoff Sharper Image), the film feels cheap, frayed around the edges," she writes. Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribune observes that one of the film's gimmicks is a device that erases memories. "Unfortunately, after watching "Paycheck," you may wish you had the picture's gimmickry at your disposal, so you could erase your own memory of it," he writes.
VIVENDI, MESSIER SETTLE WITH SEC
Vivendi Universal will pay the Securities and Exchange Commission a fine of $50 million and its former chairman, Jean-Marie Messier, will give up his $23-million severance package to settle charges that the U.S. regulator had leveled against them. The SEC had claimed that they had misled investors about the company's financial situation, employing fraudulent accounting to make it appear that the company was meeting analysts' estimates. Neither Vivendi as a company nor Messier as an individual admitted any wrongdoing. In a statement, Messier's successor, Jean-Ren